• The economic disruptions caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus may speed up consolidation in the autonomous-vehicle industry, Aurora Innovation CEO Chris Urmson said in an interview Business Insider.
  • “There’s still capital out there, but it’s going to be more selective,” he said.
  • In recent months, autonomous-vehicle startups like Zoox, Ike, and Kodiak Robotics have laid off workers, while Starsky Robotics shut down.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In recent years, automakers have collaborated with each other and invested in autonomous-vehicle startups to share the steep costs required to master a technology that could be decades away from widespread use in consumer vehicles. 

“We’re in the consolidation phase,” former Ford Autonomous Vehicles CEO Sherif Marakby told Wired in 2019. That year, Ford and Volkswagen signed a partnership that included an investment from Volkswagen in Argo AI, an AV startup Ford has enlisted to develop the technology for the autonomous ride-hailing and delivery services it plans to launch in 2022.

The economic disruptions caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus may quicken the demise of some autonomous-vehicle companies, Aurora Innovation CEO Chris Urmson said in an interview with Business Insider. Aurora, which is developing software and hardware for self-driving cars, has received investments from Amazon and Sequoia Capital and partnered with Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler.

“Consolidation is going to happen [in the autonomous-mobility business], much like in many industries early on,” Urmson said. “Some companies are going to be winners, but some are going to succumb, and the crisis could accelerate it. Strong companies will be able to raise funds. There’s still capital out there, but it’s going to be more selective.”

Oliver Cameron and Ryan Chin, the CEOs of Voyage and Optimus Ride, respectively, shared similar sentiments with Bloomberg in April.

“Anyone that’s trying to raise [money] right now, it’s going to be tougher for them,” Chin said.

The coronavirus has made life difficult for startups in all lines of business, and the autonomous-vehicle industry is no different. In recent months, autonomous-vehicle startups like Zoox, Ike, and Kodiak Robotics have laid off workers, while Starsky Robotics shut down.

“Timing, more than anything else, is what I think is to blame for our unfortunate fate,” former Starsky CEO Stefan Seltz-Axmacher wrote in March. “Our approach, I still believe, was the right one but the space was too overwhelmed with the unmet promise of AI to focus on a practical solution. As those breakthroughs failed to appear, the downpour of investor interest became a drizzle.”

Do you work in the autonomous-vehicle industry? Do you have an opinion on how your company or the industry as a whole will handle the fallout from the coronavirus? Email this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com. You can also reach out on Signal at 646-768-4712 or email this reporter’s encrypted address at mmatousek@protonmail.com.

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